Turtles in town

The tortugas (turtles) finally hatched last night here in San Clemente Ecuador   This was something I have always wanted to see, and this is now marked off the TO-DO list!!

So, this story started about 2 months ago when I saw some people building a cage on the beach.  I went to ask them what it was all about and they showed me pictures and video of the tortuga laying its eggs.  The turtle looked to be about 3 feet long, head to tail and about 2 feet across.  The egg sack in the sand appeared to have between 60 -100 eggs.

I asked how long before they hatched, and I was told 42 days.  I anxiously awaited the 42nd day, often checking in to see if they would hatch early.  On the 42nd day, I went over hoping for turtles.  I found the people who told me 42 days, and they said it was now 48 days.  The story changed.  So whoever knows me, knows that I am pretty patient and will wait for it!  On the 48th day, I grabbed my friend Keith and we went out to the beach with chairs to sit and wait.  We kept joking about the locals making fun of us dumb gringos, but we sat and watched anyway.  We were easily torn away by an expat we met on the beach offering beer.  I hoped they wouldn’t hatch while we were drinking.

As expected, they did not hatch that night.  I asked the people when the turtles would hatch, and they replied “they will hatch in August, it has not been very hot here, so the turtles would need more time.”  The story changed again.  At this point, I pretty much resigned myself to the fact I might never get to see them hatch.  I asked them to get me when the turtles surface.  My friend John looked up on the internet and thought that most turtles have a gestation period of 60 days, and this was pretty dead on.  The eggs were laid on May 29th, and hatched on July 30th.

Last night, I was hanging out and heard a whistle at the gate.  Now, this is nothing unusual as people whistle all the time here and many people come to the fence and whistle for me.  I came out of the house and the man from the local restaurant was there.  He yelled TORTUGA!  Gracias, I said, and got my camera and headed for the beach.

I was calling people en-route to let them know the turtles are coming.

When I go there, there were only a few people around.  These are the only turtles I know of along a 5+ mile stretch of beach here.  The eggs were laid real close to the road, as high as they could go above high tide lines.  The turtles sure are smart!


When I got there, the turtles were already out of the ground and in the cage built for them.  I am surprised they all came straight up out of the sand and not in many directions.  I was a bit bummed, because I really wanted to see them digging their way out of the sand.  I quickly got over that as I was happy to be there with them.




This is one of my favorite photos of the bunch.


They started picking them up out of the cage and putting them in a tub with salt water.

They counted as they went.


The first few in the tub.


The last few in the cage.




All of them in the tub.  They counted 86 total.




We handled several of the turtles, trying to put them back in the water fairly quickly.  At this stage of their life, land or water works for them, so it did not matter if they were handled a little.





I like this picture a lot, the underside.


Colon laughing as one is trying to get away from him.


Andre holding a turtle.




Libby and Gerri, with 2 onlookers!


Gary and Shelly with a turtle.


It was fun photographing the kids.







“What you lookin’ at????”














Leonel and a new friend.


We started to let them go near the road hoping they would all go to the ocean.

Here is a video.  This video gets easier to see as it goes.


Everyone lined up giving them a path to go.


This strategy backfired as they turtles wanted to go towards the lights of the street.  Also, with camera flashes and flashlights, the turtles were quite confused on which direction was correct.

We gathered them back up and got them much closer to the surf for an easier entrance.


Mad scramble.  I wanted to number them and start taking bets, but that was too much work.


They were a bit confused, but my feet were amused.





At the water’s edge.


This guy is on the verge of a very big change in his life.

A video as they enter the water

Everyone had a great time and enjoyed seeing this simple, yet beautiful part of nature.

Colon made sure to tell everyone about the turtles as they were heading toward the beach.  He said the turtles would return to this very same stretch of beach in 20 years.  So, if you want to see these same turtles again, come back in 20 years.  If you want to see their children, come back in 20 years and 60 days (give or take, haha).

Who doesn’t love a turtle hatching?

Note for photographers:  It was really hard getting the camera setting for night time and macro, and especially difficult trying to get nighttime macro shots.  The set up and changing of settings almost required 2 cameras for this type of shooting with the timing of it all at night.  Sorry for some non perfect images.

Figuring it out…  1 to 86 hatchlings at a time.